COMMENTARY | Except for maybe a few crazed fans who got into the fermented honey, nobody expected the 2012-13 New Orleans Hornets to make the NBA Playoffs. The inexperienced Hornets figured to lack the consistency needed to contend for a Western Conference Playoff push. But to have any shot at the postseason, New Orleans must play better defense than it has recently.
In their last two games, the Hornets have given up 100 and 110 points to the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder, respectively. If Mike D'Antoni was the head coach in New Orleans, that would be expected. But Monty Williams preaches defense first and he cannot be pleased at seeing New Orleans' opponents in triple-digits.
Those two defensive efforts have dropped the Hornets down to eighth in the NBA in points allowed per game. Last year, a much less talented New Orleans team ranked seventh in that statistic. The game against the Thunder was particularly disturbing because Oklahoma City could have easily scored 120-130 points if Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had stayed on the floor late in the game.
So far this season, I have been pleased at the Hornets' offensive production. Anthony Davis is much more skilled offensively than he showed at Kentucky. Al-Farouq Aminu's confidence is soaring after his Olympic run with Nigeria. Robin Lopez is playing better than he ever did with the Phoenix Suns. Ryan Anderson has finally given New Orleans an outside threat. And Greivis Vasquez is third in the NBA in assists per game.
The problem is that the Hornets need all those pieces to come together on a nightly basis to match the NBA's most highly powered offenses. If Eric Gordon was healthy, he could single-handedly keep the Hornets close when the defense struggles. But in the absence of Gordon the defense must keep the opposition in the low-90s to give New Orleans a realistic shot at winning.
Through seven games, the Hornets are 27th out of 30 NBA teams with 90.3 points per game. Given Eric Gordon's propensity for missing games, that output is not likely to change anytime soon. Last year, the undermanned Hornets only gave up 100-plus points in consecutive games three times. For New Orleans to remain competitive in 2012-13, the defense must improve immediately.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. A loyal New Orleans NBA fan, Patrick was a diehard New Orleans Jazz fan and now cheers for the Hornets. Patrick was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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